Ten years have passed since the U.S. was attacked on September 11, 2001 and six since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. And, while disasters of that magnitude are rare, hundreds of smaller-scale disasters occur every year, including tornadoes, blizzards, fires, earthquakes, airline crashes and chemical spills.
Explore this issue:September 2011
Whether it is confined to your building or involves your entire community, any unforeseen event could constitute a disaster for your otolaryngology practice, according to Owen J. Dahl, FACHE, CHBC, president of Owen Dahl Consulting in The Woodlands, Texas, and author of the eBook The Medical Practice Disaster Planning Workbook. Consider a lightning strike that ignites a structural fire, a speeding car that plows into a building, a shooting that turns a business office into a crime scene or a biological disaster such as a pandemic flu.
Two reports, “Guidance for Establishing Crisis Standards of Care for Use in Disaster Situations,” issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in September 2009, and “A Management System for Integrating Medical and Health Resources During Large-Scale Emergencies,” prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in September 2007, have highlighted the need for health care organizations to plan proactively. A disaster plan provides an otolaryngology practice with a template to maintain or restore business operations, no matter what the crisis.
“The medical practice manager of an ENT practice has a responsibility to ensure that a disaster plan is in place,” said Kenneth T. Hertz, FACMPE, a principal consultant in the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group who is based in Alexandria, La.
Whether you start small and add a new piece to the plan each month or schedule a retreat to draft the entire plan in one sitting, it is important that you distribute the plan to every employee and review and revise it regularly—when you change clocks in the spring or fall, for instance.
“Practices at risk of hurricanes could review the plan the last week of May, while those at risk of tornadoes could review it in February,” Dahl suggested. “But every practice should pick a date and put it on the calendar.”
Otolaryngologists must first prepare themselves for the prospect of a disaster, said Dan Hanfling, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., who serves as special advisor in emergency preparedness and response for Inova Health System and is also a clinical professor in the department of emergency medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Dr. Hanfling participated on the IOM’s Committee on Guidance for Establishing Standards of Care for Use in Disaster Situations. Because otolaryngologists could be first responders, he suggested keeping emergency kits containing basic supplies such as suture materials, an intubation set, backup batteries and a pulse oximeter that could be taken to help support care at the hospital.